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Discontent of Postal Workers Reported Growing in Valley

August 22, 1985|MARK ARAX | Times Staff Writer

There is growing discontent among hundreds of postal workers in the San Gabriel Valley over working conditions and relations with management, aides to an area congressman said Wednesday.

That discontentment, they say, is reflected most recently in a petition that postal workers at the Covina Post Office have signed alleging that harassment and intimidation by management have created an "intolerable working environment."

"We are beginning to be inundated with individual complaints and a petition or two from different offices," said Maxine Grant, an administrative assistant to Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park).

The petition, signed by 55 of the 90 postal employees in Covina, has been sent to Martinez, who is already spearheading a federal investigation of labor-management problems at the Alhambra Post Office.

"Management motivates through fear, intimidation and harassment," the petition stated. " . . . This has resulted in a loss of motivation which decreases productivity and helps create unsafe working conditions."

Reginald Martin, manager of the U.S. Postal Service sectional center in the City of Industry, which oversees postal service to the San Gabriel Valley, said he was aware of the problems between labor and management in Covina and that the two groups were meeting to resolve their differences.

Martin dismissed many of the complaints as coming from disgruntled employees who had lost grievance actions. "Quite frankly, when they can't get redress through the normal channels of grievance, they often turn to the press or their congressman," Martin said.

The Covina petition is the most recent in a series of written complaints from post offices in Monterey Park, Alhambra and Industry received by Martinez's office since the federal inquiry into the Alhambra Post Office was announced in June, Grant said.

"We've been deluged by individual complaints," Grant said. "Employees are coming out of the woodwork hoping that their post offices will be made part of the federal investigation."

The complaints included allegations that supervisors harassed mail carriers and clerks and that management ignored reports of a large gambling pool operating inside the sectional center in the City of Industry. Gambling on postal property is a federal crime.

Postal manager Martin said that in November, a large football pool was broken up at the sectional center after a four-week investigation by postal inspectors. Two supervisors and a clerk were fired and then reinstated. All three have since been assigned elsewhere. He said that more than 30 letters of warning were sent to postal employees filmed dropping bets inside a locker at the plant.

In an interview, one supervisor, who also talked with Martinez's staff, said she had complained to her superiors about the gambling pool several times over an 18-month period beginning in 1983. She said she was rebuffed each time.

"I saw $200 exchange hands on the floor and I went to my boss," said the supervisor, who talked to a reporter on the condition that she not be identified. "He told me to stay out of it and not get involved. 'We'll handle it,' he told me."

The supervisor said she was told by her superior that because management had a smaller football pool of its own, it would be difficult to shut down the larger pool.

"I finally went to Reggie Martin (the postal manager) and he took care of it in a matter of weeks," the supervisor said.

Martin said gambling was a major problem at the sectional center, but it has been contained since the breakup of the pool. "Several managers turned their head and allowed it to go on. Whether they did this because they were placing bets or had a pool of their own, I was not aware," he said.

In April, Rep. Martinez asked the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate labor-management relations at the Alhambra Post Office after receiving complaints from postal employees alleging "unbearable working conditions" and racial discrimination on the job. That investigation is continuing and a report detailing its findings is expected in December, according to Robert Price, a GAO official in Washington.

Martinez, who was behind a 1983 GAO investigation of the Monterey Park Post Office that substantiated employee complaints of poor management, said in a June interview that the postal problems stemmed from an "unresponsive" management regionwide.

Terry Stath, a postal carrier at the Covina Post Office who organized the petition, said he has not worked since April because of stress related to poor working conditions. "Management makes you go as fast as you can without considering whether it's 100 degrees outside or it's raining," said Stath, who is awaiting a decision on his workmen's compensation claim against the Postal Service.

"In the end, it's the public who gets hurt through poor and delayed service," Stath said.

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